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Volume 15 No. 05
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Accepted Papers

Scientific Investigations

Sleep Complaints and Sleep Quality in Spinal Cord Injury: A Web-Based Survey

Shirin Shafazand, MD, MS1; Kim D. Anderson, PhD2; Mark S. Nash, PhD2
1University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Miami, Florida; 2University of Miami, Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, Department of Neurological Surgery, Miami, Florida

Study Objectives:

The purpose of this study was to determine sleep quality and presence of sleep disorders in participants with spinal cord injury (SCI).


A web-based survey, available online from February 2011 to July 2013, using validated sleep questionnaires, advertised via the internet and locally through SCI consumer organizations in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, was designed to evaluate sleep in adults with self-reported SCI. Demographic characteristics and medical history were obtained from participant self-report.


In our study population, 70% of the 304 participants were male with a mean age of 45 ± 13 years. The mean duration of injury was 16 ± 12 years. Cervical injuries were reported by 49% and thoracic injuries noted in 40% of participants. Increased sleep apnea risk was noted in 31% of participants, with 66% reporting snoring. Insomnia symptoms were reported by 54% of the respondents. Almost 40% of participants ranked their sleep quality as “fairly bad” to “very bad” in the previous month, 29% reported “often” or “almost always” waking up because of pain, and 22% had difficulty falling asleep because of leg cramps. In the past year, 27% of the respondents reported daily uncomfortable leg sensations and 28% found these leg symptoms to be “moderately to extremely distressing.”


This study increases the awareness that insomnia, sleep apnea, and poor sleep quality are common in individuals with chronic SCI; often coexisting. There is a need for increased screening for sleep problems by healthcare providers taking care of individuals living with SCI.


Shafazand S, Anderson KD, Nash MS. Sleep complaints and sleep quality in spinal cord injury: a web-based survey. J Clin Sleep Med. 2019;15(5):719–724.

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